Sen. Sherrod Brown says he’ll fight the potential privatization at the VA


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said he will fight to stop the potential privatization of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Speaking Friday with local veterans at the Mahoning County Veterans Service Commission, Brown called on the President Donald Trump Administration to nominate someone to head the Department of Veterans Affairs who has earned the support of veterans groups and will refuse to privatize the VA.

“Millions of American veterans depend on VA for health care and benefits, and they deserve a strong leader at the top who will stand up to political pressures and work every day to improve care for them,” said Brown, a Cleveland Democrat.

Brown said, “It’s clear that when government privatizes” it “doesn’t work,” and that’s why “every veterans organization out there opposes privatization because they know the bottom line will be profits not service to veterans. It’s a bad, bad idea.”

David Shulkin, fired by the Trump administration in March as VA secretary, said he was removed because he opposed privatizing the department.

In a March 28 column in The New York Times, Shulkin wrote that “successes within the department have intensified the ambitions of people who want to put VA health care in the hands of the private sector. I believe differences in philosophy deserve robust debate, and solutions should be determined based on the merits of the arguments. The advocates within the administration for privatizing VA health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed.”

The VA issued a statement April 5 that “there is no effort underway to privatize VA, and to suggest otherwise is completely false and a red herring designed to distract and avoid honest debate on the real issues surrounding veterans’ health care.”

Brown called on Trump to move quickly to nominate a VA secretary who is fully vetted and ready for the job.

The nominee needs to “publicly say, ‘I oppose privatization. I’ll fight privatization and I’ll lose my job if I have to to fight privatization,’ which is what happened to the last VA secretary.”

Brown was asked Friday by The Vindicator about General Motors’ announcement last month that it’s eliminating the second shift at the Lordstown complex, which is expected to cut 1,500 jobs. The last day of the second shift is June 15.

“It’s just outrageous that they pocketed hundreds of millions, really billions of dollars in tax breaks from this tax bill” including “cutting the corporate tax rate by almost 50 percent, and the president and Republicans in Congress promised more jobs and higher pay.”

Brown said he understands that with gas prices relatively low that people are driving bigger vehicles and not the Lordstown-made fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cruze as they once did. But money GM made from the tax cuts could have gone into the plant “to do what we need to do in this plant,” Brown said. “They’ve just failed. They’ve turned their backs on the [Mahoning] Valley.”

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